Education Secretary Faces Legal Challenge Over Face Masks in the Classroom

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson faces a legal challenge over the wearing of face masks in schools as he is told that official guidance will have “devastating” effects for deaf children. The Telegraph has the story.

Gavin Williamson has been sent a Letter before Action by lawyers acting for the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) who say the guidance is “unlawful” and must be urgently changed.

It comes amid rising pressure on the Government over its latest guidance on masks, which says they should be worn by secondary pupils in lessons as well as anywhere indoors at school where it is not possible to socially distance.

This goes much further than the earlier official recommendations on face masks in secondary schools. During the autumn term, guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) said face masks should be worn in corridors and communal areas in parts of the country under Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions. Elsewhere, it was left to the discretion of headteachers.

Now Mr Williamson has been told that the guidance on face masks in schools is “unlawful, irrational and inconsistent” with his legal duties.

The NDCS say that face masks create a “wholly avoidable additional barrier” to learning and social interaction for deaf children who need to be able to see the faces of their peers and teachers in order to lip read.

Lip reading would be possible if transparent face masks were used in schools, but the guidance claims there is “very limited evidence” for their effectiveness or safety which has put headteachers off allowing them. 

The pre-action letter explains that the guidance is “irrational” since it encourages the use of homemade face masks – which it says could be made with a scarf or bandana – while discouraging the use of transparent masks.

“The suggestion that transparent face coverings may be ineffective is belied by the fact that specified transparent face coverings have been approved for use by the NHS in numerous healthcare settings and meet the standard set for face coverings,” it says.

Worth reading in full.

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